Collaboration with Australia: Amplifying the Alien Clearing Programme

Australia and South Africa have teamed up to add new functionality to the Flower Valley Alien Clearing Programme. 

While invasive alien clearing work has continued across the landscape over the past seven years, as part of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative Alien Clearing Project (coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust), it’s not been possible to date to easily extract specific or combined data around the impact of the programme.

Enter Australian, Rod Moss.

Rod had worked with Flower Valley’s Esna Swart in previous years. He became aware of the Alien Clearing Programme and the specifics thereof through Esna, and saw this as an opportunity to learn something new, while helping the Trust.

With Rod’s help, Flower Valley now has a digital tracking and monitoring system – making it easy to measure the impact over time.

Here’s Rod’s letter on how this came about…

“I had been interested in Esna Swart’s work with Flower Valley for quite a while as working with drones, GIS and general mapping was something I had a pretty good understanding of. So, after my retirement in October 2019, during one of our discussions, the topic of Excel came up. Since I was interested in teaching myself VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) for Excel, I asked if there was any way I could help. I wanted to develop my skills and the Flower Valley project seemed like a great way to do that – especially with all this free time during lockdown.

“After a few productive Zoom/WhatsApp discussions, we identified what we needed to do and created a plan to achieve our goals. Since our initial discussion, the project has grown and taken on an interesting life of its own.

“Today, with the click of a button, we can see where the aliens are located, what the species and densities were, how many person days were allocated, what investments were made, cost analysis and much more.

 

Even though the data had been available in the past, the platform to extract and run quick analysis has not existed until now. We are currently working on the next stage of the project, which includes the creation of a dashboard where near real-time data will be made available.

“We still have a long way to go, but so far we have developed a working product that adds value to alien clearing and conservation efforts. I have thoroughly enjoyed the development and am looking forward to assisting with future projects.”

Flower Valley Conservation Trust

Natural Resource Management: Alien Clearing Programme

When fynbos is picked sustainably, you not only protect the fynbos kingdom for future generations, you also protect the livelihoods of those who harvest it. 

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Thank you, and goodbye, Lesley Richardson

Thank you, and goodbye, Lesley Richardson

For 17 years, Lesley Richardson has guided and led Flower Valley Conservation Trust as the Trust’s Executive Director, and in the past two years, as Fundraising and Partnership Development Manager.

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Next steps to rid the Overberg of invasive plants

A new invasive alien clearing programme has
launched in the Overberg. 

The project is an Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) project, implemented by Flower Valley Conservation Trust.

 

Flower Valley secured just short of R12-million over the next 3 years from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

This project follows up on invasive alien clearing work undertaken in the Overberg over the past 8 years – since the launch of the ABI project. In the project this year, we’ll target:

 

  • 4,655 hectares of follow up clearing;
  • And 1,039 hectares of initial clearing.
  • It will also create 16,768 person days of work this year.

The implementation plan is based on a partnership model.

Flower Valley works with conservancies and other land user groups to roll out the project. We’re working with 9 such groups in this round.  

That means landowners must be a member of a land user group to qualify for clearing support. This allows conservancy-wide clearing plans to address invasive species challenges across the landscape, with crucial areas prioritised.

In this project, Flower Valley works closely with the Land User Group representative. But the Trust also works closely with each landowner who agrees to join the project, as well as with the elected contractors.

Over the past 8 years, the partnership has learnt a number of lessons that will be addressed in this round.

The quality of the clearing is essential.

And that requires closer monitoring – both from the landowner (or his/her elected representative), as well as by the Flower Valley team.

The DEA-funded project also requires a strong administrative support team. While DEA funds support the clearing work and transport of the contractors, they do not support the admin requirements.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO LANDOWNERS JOINING THE PROJECT?

 

  • All clearing salaries and transport costs are covered.
  • Herbicide assistance is provided.
  • The Flower Valley team ensures best practice standards are implemented, in terms of health & safety, and herbicide use.
  • Working with the Land User Groups, the Trust pulls together the Annual Plan of Operations.
  • We advise each contractor on each site that will be cleared.
  • And we monitor and assess the quality on completion.
  • The Trust’s team also supplies detailed maps and datasets on treatment-areas.
  • And the Flower Valley team serves as the communication touchpoint with DEA.

Landowners who choose to join the project pay an administrative fee, to cover these service costs.

For more, contact your Land User Group representative, or speak to Stanley Engel. Email: stanley@flowervalley.co.za; or Tel. 028 425 2218.

The project is co-funded by the Drakenstein Trust and Millennium Trust. 

6 reasons why climate change is the latest threat to fynbos

“Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy and habitable by all species” – Sir David Attenborough

The Cape Floral Kingdom is the most diverse and smallest floral kingdom in the world, yet one of the most threatened. Invasive alien vegetation, habitat removal and degradation are damaging the ecosystem that boasts more than 9000 plant species. Intact fynbos provides essential ecosystem services such as good water catchment systems and several economic uses such as fynbos for bouquets, honey, medicinal and edible plants.

Now a new threat has been knocking on the door of fynbos and its survival: climate change. 

Unfortunately for fynbos, due to human actions, the climate is changing too fast which is causing grave imbalances in nature. According to years of research done by The Western Cape Department of Agriculture and independent scientists for the SmartAgri Plan, temperatures will rise up to 3˚C by 2050 in the Province. This means less winter rainfall, longer dry-spells and destructive heat waves.

This is already evident from the 3 year drought experienced by the Cape, being one of the first cities to experience the true impacts of climate change. Such extreme weather is predicted to become more prevalent in future.

 

Here are 6 reasons that show why climate change is a real threat to fynbos:

1. AREA

Estimates of the potential impacts of climate change in the Cape Floristic Region show that the Fynbos biome could exhibit between 51% and 65% loss of area (Dept of Agriculture, Western Cape: SmartAgri).

2: SPECIES

Plant species richness is set to diminish due to warmer weather and drying, as well as changing fire regimes and invasive plants.

3: INDUSTRY

Fynbos species harvested for the wild will be pressured by climate changes, via smaller populations, habitat fragmentation and impacts on product quality (retailers have strict standards for harvested plant products). Already the very severe drought in the Western Cape is impacting on this economy.

4: LIVELIHOODS

Fynbos provides jobs and livelihoods to an estimated 20,000 people (Cape Flora SA). For many rural communities in the Western Cape, harvesting of wild flowers is the only economic activity available to sustain their families. Without fynbos to pick, these communities will suffer financially.

5: FIRE

Fynbos is dependent on fire to germinate, but then needs rainfalls for the seedlings to then develop. But with the weather patterns changing, and fynbos struggling to grow in some parts of the province, invasive aliens take over.

6: WATER EXTRACTION

With uncertain water supply in our dams, we are going to be more and more reliant on underground water. A number of the unique Cape Flora Families are dependent on our perennial aquifer fed streams. The impacts of this water extraction on our fynbos species is unknown to date, but ecologists are extremely concerned.

Some of these climate change threats are unavoidable, but others such as removal of alien invasive vegetation and sustainable solutions to water use can help mitigate the situation. In time of drought the City of Cape Town halved its water consumption, a feat not easily achieved, but showcases our ability to make large scale positive change together as a society.

Clearing the Agulhas Plain of invasive species

ABI Alien Clearing Programme

Invasive alien clearing, under the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) banner, has started up again across the Agulhas Plain. The alien clearing project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust (the Coordination Unit and Secretariat of ABI), with funds for the clearing operations sourced from the Department of Environmental Affairs.

That means that around 160 project participants are back in the natural landscapes across the Plain. They’ll be clearing around 15,000 hectares over the next four months.

The project is once again operating according to an innovative model: the Flower Valley team works with nine conservancies and land user groups, who in turn work with their landowner members.

Through this model, Flower Valley Conservation Trust (a Public Benefit Organisation) serves as the implementing agent, the key contact with the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The conservancies play a major role in rolling out and implementing the project, and provide extensive co-funding to the clearing operations.

The nine conservancies are:

 

The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative is a landscape initiative, structured as a voluntary association that serves the Overberg area. ABI has four themes according to which it works, the first being integrated land-use planning, including the clearing of invasive species.

 

Alien invasives are one of the biggest threats to the Overberg’s natural landscapes – especially the area’s threatened fynbos vegetation.

From 2013, the ABI Alien Clearing Project has cleared approximately 30,000 hectares per year up to 2016. Since then, the Flower Valley team has been in constant communications with the Department of Environmental Affairs, to ensure the gains made in the past are not lost.

 

4 reasons to celebrate Plant Day

This Thursday (April 13) is International Plant Appreciation Day. And what better way to celebrate and appreciate our fabulous fynbos!

So we’ve got 4 reasons to get into the fynbos on Thursday (and any other day, for that matter).

 

#ERICA IRREGULARIS

This endangered pretty pink flower only grows from July to October and is only found in three locations in the world – one of them on Flower Valley Farm. This Erica species used to be harvested for the fynbos bouquet industry. But the fynbos industry and others involved in fynbos soon realised this was not smart. And so harvesting of Erica irregularis was stopped – before extinction!

#ALOE JUDDII

The Aloe juddii is very new to the aloe family – and was only discovered a few years back. This phenomenal new species can only be seen on Flower Valley Farm and Farm215, on high rocky sandstone slopes. Although it’s believed to also occur elsewhere, experts say its population is decreasing, threatened by invasive plants.

#LACHENALIA LUTZEYERI

A wonderful species which was spotted after a small fire in our region in 2004 – by Heiner Lutzeyer of Grootbos. This vulnerable species can be found flowering on Flower Valley Farm from October to November and has the most spectacular white bulb-like petals. The Lachenalia lutzeyeri loves the sun and grows after a fire. But irregular fires are a major threat to this Lachenalia.

#LEUCOSPERMUM PATERSONII

Another vulnerable species that we love on Flower Valley Farm is the Leucospermum patersonii – the silver-edge pincushion. This dark orange pincushion blooms between August and November and the sugarbirds use the plant as a landing pad for them to collect sweet nectar. They make for a beautiful sight on Flower Valley Farm in October.

These interesting plant species are a must see on Flower Valley Farm.

Just remember your hiking shoes and a camera!

Photo credit: Flower Valley Conservation Trust and Fynbos Hub

New invasive species laws impact landowners

Alien clearing

Alien clearing

Landowners and municipalities are now required to have a plan to control invasive species on their properties, and have an obligation to remove these species.

New National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) regulations came into force on 1 October 2016. According to the new laws, invasive species are now considered a legal liability to property owners.

The new regulations also states that property sellers must inform potential buyers of invasive species that are found on the property, thereby encouraging estate agents to play a role in encouraging the sale of properties that are clear of invasive species.

An updated invasive species list was also published, replacing older lists. The new list categorises 379 invasive terrestial and fresh water plant species, and a further 4 invasive marine plant species. The species are categorised as Category 1a, 1b, 2 or 3 species.

Flower Valley has coordinated the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme over the past three years, working with  government, landowners and project participants to clear invasive species on around 30,000 hectares a year.

The programme forms part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Land User Incentive Scheme. While the Department provided the funding for the clearing work and the transport, land users and other stakeholders involved provided co-funding commitments and ensured the programme was rolled out successfully.

The programme ended during 2016. Negotiations are ongoing with the Department for the next three year cycle. Annual clearing plans have been developed with landowners and other stakeholders for the next three years, prioritising biodiversity-rich areas that require follow-up clearing work. It’s hoped clearing operations will start within the coming weeks.

Teaming up to control invasive plants

invasive plants

Invasive aliens plants in the Overberg.

Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) have teamed up to tackle invasive alien plants in the Overberg.

The partners are working together to develop systems to detect and identify invasive alien plants in the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme-area in the Overberg. Flower Valley Conservation Trust coordinates ABI.

Through support from the Table Mountain Fund (an associated Trust of WWF-South Africa), the partners are also finding ways to monitor invasive alien specie populations, the areas in which they grow, and how the population densities change over time, while capturing invasive alien clearing data in a way that is not administratively burdensome for land users.

A researcher is now being sought to evaluate existing monitoring and evaluation tools used by Working for Water, and other organisations. From here, cost effective and scientifically robust methodologies will be developed that land users can make use of.

Through the position, landowners and other stakeholders will also receive training support on how to control invasive alien species on private land.

Working for Water programmes are generally known to in some instances include costly record-keeping tools that have heavy administrative requirements. Many of these tools cannot be optimally used by private landowners. It’s hoped through this project to develop user-friendly ways for landowners to capture and record their information.

For more information, contact Roger Bailey. Email: info@flowervalley.co.za

New invader found on Agulhas Plain

kangaroo-paw-alien

Evergreen Kangaroo Paw

A new invasive plant species has been identified on the Agulhas Plain. The Evergreen Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus) has been located on two properties in the area. Although the species has not yet been listed as an invasive plant under the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), it is considered a threat to the Western Cape.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is now working with Flower Valley Conservation Trust to control and look to eradicate this species on the properties. These two partners will now work closely in piloting efficient treatment and control measures, which will include data collection on treatments, population size and the rate of spread. Flower Valley coordinates the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme.

The Kangaroo Paw stems from Southwest Australia, although it is commercially grown in other countries throughout the world, including the USA and Japan. It is used as an ornamental flower, with some of its artificial hybrids used for the cut-flower market.

Due to its adaptability to different soil types, and ability to cope with water stress, it is considered a threat. The species is also immune to most fungal attacks. It’s believed that the species can be eradicated from the Agulhas Plain, given that it is believed to not have spread beyond the two properties as yet.

 

Plans afoot to convert biomass to energy

Rooikrans

Rooikrans

The Agulhas Plain, where the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project is taking place, has been selected as the pilot study site to investigate the use of invasive alien plant biomass for energy.

The ABI Alien Clearing Project is coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust. Through the project, around 30,000 hectares of land are being cleared of invasive alien plants every year. The project is also creating around 160 jobs for project participants. The majority of the funding was secured from the Department of Environmental Affairs, through its Land User Incentive Scheme. However, landowners and other stakeholders involved in the project are providing co-funding.

The project, currently in its third year, has resulted in a considerable amount of alien plant biomass being left in the veld. Experts believe this biomass could be used and converted to various energy products.

In order to assess this opportunity, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in a study funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs, will now investigate how much invasive alien plant biomass is available in the area. The ABI Alien Clearing Project is operating on private land across the Agulhas Plain, the region between Hermanus and De Hoop.

According to Dr William Stafford of the CSIR at the ABI Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday, 24 June, the CSIR study will also investigate the feasibility of biomass to energy projects, looking at the opportunities for local or regional energy use, versus supplying the national grid. Additional products from biomass, including heat, charcoal and biochar, will be considered.

Dr Stafford said, “There are 160 million dry tons of invasive plants standing on the landscape in South Africa. And these invasives are spreading at 10 percent per year. That’s a ten-fold increase if we do nothing.” He said that Working for Water programmes had managed to reduce that spread by one percent. “But we want zero percent growth – that’s the ideal situation.” The study will be completed by end-March 2016.

ABI, a landscape initiative working across the Overberg region, has been operating since 2003. The ABI Partnership works together to secure a productive and healthy natural environment in the area, and includes landowners, government department officials, officials from CapeNature and SANParks, and NGOs. ABI is chaired by Agri Wes-Cape President, Cornie Swart.

Government, landowners meet on invasive alien clearing


 

The threat of invasive alien plants on the Agulhas Plain was central at a two-day workshop held between government, landowners and non-governmental organisations in April. The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI), coordinated by Flower Valley Conservation Trust, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) hosted the workshop aimed at strengthening invasive alien management in the area. This was the first get-together of its kind in the region. (more…)